U.S. Arctic Policy
U.S. Arctic policy emphasizes environmental protection, sustainable development, human health, and the role of indigenous people and other Arctic residents as stakeholders in the Arctic. The U.S. seeks to promote the viability and socio-economic well-being of Arctic communities. In addition, the United States is determined to support scientific research and broaden international cooperation in achieving Arctic objectives.
United States Arctic policy is based on six principal objectives:
The United States has been an Arctic nation with important interests in the region since the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. At that time, national security and economic development were key U.S. interests. While this remains true today, significant changes in the international political arena, scientific and technological developments, and increasing global interdependence have created new challenges and opportunities for the State of Alaska, the United States, and all other Arctic nations.
In 1991, the United States joined the seven other Arctic countries (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden) in establishing the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS). The AEPS was a Finnish initiative to address a variety of environmental protection issues in the Arctic. Four working groups were established under the AEPS to focus on environmental monitoring and assessment, conservation of flora and fauna, emergency preparedness, and marine protection. These working groups remain active today (see below for further details about the working groups).
After several years of working on pan-Arctic environmental issues within the AEPS, member states, at Canada's initiative, decided to expand the focus of the AEPS to deal with issues of sustainable development in the Arctic. To this end a new entity was formed with the signing of the "Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council" in Ottawa on September 19, 1996.
The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council website, http://arctic-council.org, includes links to all the working groups, information on activities, projects, and upcoming events, and the archives of meeting documents, press releases, etc.
The Working Groups of the Arctic Council
Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP):
Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF):
Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (EPPR):
Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME):
Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG):
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA):
The Arctic Council provides a high-level intergovernmental forum to address environmental protection and sustainable development issues in the Arctic region. The eight founding nations of the AEPS comprise the member states of the Arctic Council. Arctic indigenous representatives hold permanent participant status, and several other nations and international organizations are observers. The Council meets every two years at the ministerial level to coordinate Council activities and oversee the work of the five working groups and other projects as noted below. Senior Arctic officials from each member state meet more frequently to provide for liaison and coordination.